Why is former Nigerian president Obasanjo meddling in Sierra Leone’s election?

6 November 2012

Former Nigerian president – Army General Olusegun Obasanjo, is said to have struck highly lucrative oil exploration deal with president Koroma of Sierra Leone, which analysts believe could be worth billions of dollars.

Sierra Leone’s offshore oil production potential has been sold off by president Koroma’s government in a bid to raise funds to partly pay for the construction of roads, which according to critics – adds little value to the country’s economic growth and job creation.

A huge chunk of revenue generated from the sale of the country’s oil fields, is believed to  have vanished into the private bank accounts of senior ministers and the ruling party’s coffers.

As various multinational companies carve up the country’s offshore coastal waters in search of the black gold, president Obasanjo is said to have struck a close friendship with president Koroma.

But opposition politicians in Sierra Leone are now accusing the former Nigerian president of meddling in the political affairs of the country, with just two weeks to go before presidential election is held.

Obasanjo arrived in Freetown over the weekend to join president Koroma on his election campaign trail across the north of the country – seen as the ruling party’s stronghold.

There are rumours of president Obasanjo arriving in the country unannounced, with suitcases full of dollars to help finance president Koroma’s bid for a second term in office.

It is believed that the former Nigerian president is trying to safeguard his mining interests in the country, after the main opposition SLPP presidential candidate – Maada Bio, announced that he will be reviewing all mining agreements and deals entered into by president Koroma, should he win the elections on 17th November.

But such interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state by a foreign leader, is bound to attract widespread condemnation, raising further the political temperature in the country.

Tensions are running high as both the ruling APC party and the main opposition SLPP, flight a close run race for the control of State House.

The two main districts in the country holding the deciding cards for electoral victory – the capital Freetown and the eastern district of Kono, have witnessed serious violence.

The partisan presence of former Nigerian president Obasanjo in Sierra Leone at this time, and his naked support for president Koroma’s campaign for a second term in office is a worrying development.

In a press statement issued today by the opposition SLPP, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie – the party’s National Secretary-General pull no punches, as he accuses the former Nigerian president of double standards and political interference.

This is what the statement says:

“His Excellency, General Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria has paid an unexpected visit to Sierra Leone immediately following a very successful official visit by the Nigerian Head of State President Goodluck Jonathan.

“The visit by the current Nigerian Head of State was appreciated by the Sierra Leone Peoples Party since Mr. Jonathan made it his priority to address all Political Parties on the need for successful forthcoming elections before embarking on other engagements.

“It could be recalled that General Obasanjo, then President made a similar visit in the run up to the 2007 elections. 

“The Sierra Leone Peoples Party is puzzled that such an eminent African elder Statesman can surreptitiously enter our Country, move from the Airport in a UN helicopter to join the campaign bandwagon of President Koroma in Kabala, the far north of the country, without giving Sierra Leoneans the opportunity to know why he was here at such a crucial moment in our country.

“The Sierra Leone Peoples Party has subsequently enquired from the Nigerian High Commission in Freetown and they in turn have expressed dismay at General Obasanjo’s visit.

“They seem to have no knowledge of why he is here as his visit is apparently a private one.

“The Sierra Leone Peoples Party has however learnt that the General, the retired President is in the Country to boost the campaign of President Koroma, as a way of promoting the business interest of his clients, Chevron Sahara, a company that has already expressed interest in some of our Oil Blocks.

“As the main opposition Party, we find it extremely distasteful and disgusting for General Obasanjo to use an election campaign as a means of promoting a clients business interest.

“We take this move by former President Obasanjo to be a gross interference in our domestic politics, a scheme that has the potential to drive a wedge between the people of Sierra Leone and those of Nigeria.

“We appreciate the contribution and sacrifice of the people of Nigeria and the Nigerian Government in helping to bring peace and democracy to our country.

“We acknowledge the role General Obasanjo played as part of the overall Nigerian effort.

“We are therefore of the view that General Obasanjo of all people should have known that using an election platform to promote a business interest in a post conflict country will undermine the effort of all Sierra Leoneans and the International Community in sustaining our hard won peace for which many lives were sacrificed including Nigerian lives.

“General Obasanjo should never have allowed himself to be used so cheaply by a desperate President seeking an elusive second term.

“We will formerly present our case on this matter to the Nigerian Government and the relevant authorities of ECOWAS, the African Union and all other stakeholders in this process.

“We want to assure Sierra Leoneans and Nigerians living in Sierra Leone that the brotherly relationship between our two countries and people will not be affected by this singular private visit of a former Head of State who played his own role in promoting peace, democracy and good governance in our country, Sierra Leone.”

 

 

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